LAS VEGAS - When Jalen Grimble finished his first-ever workout here at the Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa with trainer Jimmy "Giff" Gifford the Bishop Gorman defensive end vowed never to return.
It was too hard. Gifford was too demanding. Things could be a lot easier elsewhere. Grimble wanted to take the easy way out.
"When I was coming up the stairs and I walked out the door, the first thing I said to myself was there is no way I'm walking back through this door ever again," Grimble said.
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"But here I am back at it. I'm starting to see the improvement. I'm starting to see the endurance and it's also a mental change. I'll be able to defend myself. I'll have quicker hand-eye coordination. I'm happy I came back."
Gifford, a New Yorker who mainly trains mixed martial arts fighters and boxers in this gorgeous basement venue, said how Grimble, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive end, came back the second day was most impressive to him.
Grimble was aggressive, more attentive to detail, wanted more instruction and that was Gifford's cue to push his pupil even harder. From weight training to punching bags to a leg-press machine stationed next to Cadillacs and Mercedes Benz's in an underground parking lot, Grimble is putting in the work and it's paying off.
"He comes down here, it's a privilege," Gifford said. "It's not a right. The reason he gets this privilege is because he's a hard worker, he takes nothing for granted. He's a good kid. When we first met I said are you sure you're not a poker player, you have no expression on your face, stone-faced assassin. This is going to give him confidence on the field as well - I can throw some punches, I can handle myself. All this is transferable.
"I have an advantage with Jalen. I'm working on footwork drills with him and I'm already ahead of the curve. He's doing a lot of boxing and MMA stuff right now and he's picking up the footwork really, really fast. He's found his rhythm to say the least."
Working out in this gym can be intimidating. Signatures of top sports stars adorn a white wall near treadmills and other workout equipment.
Frank Mir, Forest Griffin, Anderson Silva and Rampage Jackson are some of the MMA stars to walk through the doors. Boxer John Ruiz's signature is on the wall close to former running back DeMarco Murray. Shane Victorino has worked out in this gym.
A television crew was filming some promotional work Thursday afternoon for an upcoming fight. Gifford was chatting with a fighter near the boxing ring. Grimble rested on a weight lifting bench in a corner after his workout. To get access to the training center, a man in a gray suit had a sign-in sheet ready.
This place is for big boys. This is serious business. And it's why Grimble, who had 62 tackles and eight sacks last season, is here - to become the best football player he can be.
"It's going to help him a lot as far as being aggressive and using his hands on the football field," said Grimble's father, Jerry. "The advantage of working out with these guys, you can see the workout is real, real tough. They are professional athletes and these guys are in top shape. It's teaching him if you want to be a top, elite athlete you have to work real hard at it."
Grimble said: "The first time I came here I didn't know what to expect. (Gifford) was asking me if I was ready to go punch the bags and I said what am I doing? After the first round I said to myself what am I getting into or why did I even say yes to coming? After going through them it starts to get easier and as it gets easier it gets tougher because he throws more stuff at me. Now that I'm here I'm glad I stayed with it."
On the recruiting front, Grimble said he is still "wide open" and with so many offers it could be hard to gauge which schools are under serious consideration.
The Bishop Gorman standout recently returned from a trip to Southern Cal and UCLA - he figured it was his fourth to each school - and the Trojans and Bruins are certainly major players in his recruitment.
What he likes about Southern Cal is that not much has changed since coach Lane Kiffin took over for Pete Carroll, who left after last season to coach the Seattle Seahawks.
"USC has been the powerhouse when Pete Carroll got there and I can tell nothing is going to change," Grimble said. "USC is always going to be USC. Going to their practice I didn't know what to expect, new coaching staff, but the meetings haven't changed, the intensity hasn't changed. They got on the field and it was like nothing had changed. It was like Pete Carroll went back 30 years of age and was reincarnated as Lane Kiffin."
Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron also made a big impression. Known as a fiery, intense, competitive coach, Orgeron certainly didn't disappoint when Grimble, whose cousin Xavier signed with the Trojans in their 2010 recruiting class, watched him.
"Sitting through his meetings, it was a jaw dropper," Grimble said of Orgeron. "You're thinking it's only a meeting, you're not at practice yet and he's already fired up, yelling, sweating, cursing, talking and spit coming out. It translates right over to the field."
What Grimble took away from the UCLA practices is how different the approach has been from coach Rick Neuheisel and his staff. Last season, things were a little cooler, more relaxed. Grimble noticed right away that tactics have been altered in Westwood - and he sees it as a good thing.
"UCLA has been a complete turnaround from last year," Grimble said. "Last year their practices were kind of mellow, going through the motions, get here, get there, OK, practice is over. This year they had the music rolling, players were fired up. It wasn't that low tempo. Players were ready to go, practice was really on beat and things were rolling. It was non-stop. It was a good practice to watch.
"A turnaround isn't going to happen in one year. It's going to take time for (Neuheisel) to get his own recruiting classes in there and get the guys that weren't his out. These past two recruiting classes I can tell things are turning around."
Grimble, who has targeted Aug. 10, his birthday, to commit, has also visited Oregon, Cal, LSU, Utah and UNLV and said all of those schools remain in the running. He especially raved about Oregon, Cal and LSU and said the facilities and academic opportunities at all three places will keep those programs high on his list.
"Oregon is bar none one of the best schools I've ever seen," Grimble said. "The facilities are amazing. I saw some stuff that made me want to just pass out. I don't know where they came up with inventions for these things. How do you find time to build these? How do you find time to think of these things?
"The big eye opener with Cal is that it's a great academic school and that's the No. 1 thing being able to get my degree and being able to move on just in case football doesn't work. The facilities (at LSU) and at Oregon are incredible. Even the practice locker room on campus, not even at the stadium, it's like why does a practice locker room have to look this good?"
Grimble has found the best place in town to train. Now he's looking for the best place to play college football. In a town of big gambles, Grimble looks like the surest bet out there.